Asee peer logo

Increasing the Interest of Elementary School Girls in STEM Fields Through Outreach Activities

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Focused on Female Students

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jennifer M. Bastiaan Kettering University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Jennifer Bastiaan received her Ph.D. in Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering from the University of Waterloo. She is an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering department at Kettering University, where she is focused on teaching and research in ground vehicle systems. She is a veteran of the U.S. automotive industry with two decades of experience, including modeling and physical testing programs. Her technical research interests include vehicle dynamics, tire mechanics, and sound and vibration. She is also interested in education research, especially regarding the design of engaging STEM outreach programs for pre-college students, and the incorporation of effective industry partnerships into undergraduate engineering education.

visit author page


Roger Bastiaan ENWIN Utilities

visit author page

Roger Bastiaan is the Supervisor of System Control at ENWIN Utilities, a public electric power company in Ontario, Canada. He has three decades of electric system control experience. He is interested in the education and training of future generations of employees in the power industry.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Despite the known value of a diverse Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce, women and minorities continue to be under-represented in these fields. Engineering undergraduate degrees, in particular, are awarded to women engineering students in the United States and Canada at a lower rate compared to their male counterparts. For the past 20 years, less than 20% of engineering degrees have been awarded to women students, and this stubborn trend is not changing much. The outcome is worse for black and Hispanic students, who usually comprise less than 10% of engineering graduates. Research has shown that low self-confidence in learning math and science subjects starts at a young age in girls and minority students, often in the early years of elementary school, and this ultimately leads to low interest and enrolment in STEM undergraduate programs. In an attempt to combat negative stereotypes about the capabilities of girls and minorities in STEM studies, which undermine the confidence of these groups, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has instituted the Girls’ Engineering Exploration (GEE) day. This is an annual STEM outreach event for girls in the Detroit Public School (DPS) system, which is 95% black and Hispanic. GEE is an all-day event for 4th to 6th grade female DPS students. Groups of girls participate in the event with volunteer mentors who are female engineers working in local industry, thus providing the girls with role models. The groups of girls and their mentors cycle through a series of STEM activities that are meant to be engaging, and to increase their interest in STEM careers. In this work, two GEE activities recently created and presented are described in detail. The first activity is a traditional engineering exercise involving physical creation and observation of electrical circuits. The second activity is a novel exercise focused on the new discipline of autonomous vehicle design. The girls experiment with “doodle track cars”, which are inexpensive toy cars that stand in for self-driving vehicles. The toy cars are equipped with optical sensors which enable them to follow hand-drawn lines that represent the roadway. This activity allows the girls to investigate the limitations of real sensors. All of the materials for both activities are provided as educational resources, including science sheets and worksheets, such that pre-college educators can take advantage of these activities in their own classrooms and outreach events with little to no modification. Detailed information about the design and deployment of these activities is reported, including cost of materials and opportunity cost, in terms of time invested in preparing the activities for students. Furthermore, the results of student surveys from GEE, in the form of questionnaires for each activity, are analyzed and presented. The conclusion is that modern topics such as autonomous vehicles are well worth the activity development effort, as students are more engaged in these activities than in derivative exercises such as the circuits activity, which they may have been exposed to previously.

Bastiaan, J. M., & Bastiaan, R. (2019, June), Increasing the Interest of Elementary School Girls in STEM Fields Through Outreach Activities Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32961

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015